Macro-Competence: an analysis of evaluations of party competence in the U.K., U.S., Germany, Australia and Canada
This paper offers an aggregate level theory of public opinion about party competence and the way parties gain and lose reputations for competence. We posit that issue competence ratings exhibit a significant and important degree of common variation. When parties lose or gain ratings on one issue, they also tend to lose or gain ratings on others, suggesting that issue competence can be conceptualised as a generalised performance evaluation akin to an issue competence mood, which we call ‘macro-competence’. Using Stimson’s (1991) dyadic ratios algorithm and an extensive dataset of more than 10,000 aggregate opinion poll measures on issue handling from the U.K., U.S., Germany, Australia and Canada, we introduce a new measure of policy competence which reveals a high degree of common variation in party competence evaluations and further shows correspondence over time between macro-competence and other political or economic evaluations. Important parallels are uncovered between the countries. This theory and measure can contribute in new ways to aggregate level explanations of macro politics.